In the course of my remarks last night, I made an appeal to the Minister to consider the question of a bounty on lobsters. I have been pressing that for the last 12 months and I am very glad to see by this morning's Press that the Department has yielded to the pressure I have brought to bear on it during the past 12 months.
In Committee on Finance. - Vote No. 53—Fisheries (Resumed).
As I am on this question of bounties, there is another aspect of our sea fisheries that might also be considered in this light—the export of salt mackerel to the American market. This has been a fairly remunerative market for many years past. The trade is confined to the south-western coast of the Free State, on a country extending from Dingle down through Valentia, Castletownbere, Garinish, Allihies and those other places and it was a very remunerative trade for the fishermen of that portion of our country. It is an autumn trade and the mackerel are packed in barrels and salted. The only outlet for them has been the American market. There has been a tariff against this class of trade in the American market for some time past and we have made representations, through our representatives in New York, to the American authorities from time to time to have this tariff modified but not with any degree of success, so I would suggest that the Minister, if he is in a favourable mood to consider the encouragement of Irish fisheries, should look into the question of an export bounty on fish sent to the American market. It is a very important matter.
In his opening remarks, the Minister made reference to certain changes in the personnel of the Department. He has told the House that these changes have brought about a certain amount of reduction in the Vote and that is so, but I think we would be more concerned to know whether these changes have made for efficiency in the administration of the Department. The Secretary of the Department, Mr. Moriarty, who filled that position for many years is gone. He was in that position for many years before the Free State came into existence and he has retired—I suppose on the age limit. He is a man we are very sorry to lose because he had a perfect knowledge of fishing conditions in the country and we can only hope that the gentleman succeeding him will be able, with his knowledge and experience gained from studying the methods of his predecessor, to fill the position just as successfully.
There was one change in the staff which I find it very difficult to understand. That is the case of Mr. McKnight. He was in the Inland Fisheries Department. He had 35 years' experience. He was a man second to none in his knowledge of the administration of that Department. He was a painstaking and courteous official, and an expert in the particular work on the administration of which he was engaged. He was called upon to resign on the 1st April, and he has resigned. I do not think any reason has been given for calling upon him to resign. He has, of course, got the pension to which he is entitled under the statutory terms of his appointment, but it would be well for us to know why his services were dispensed with, because he was a man capable of many good years excellent service in the Department. Somebody else has been appointed on another salary to fill his position, while he has gone out on pension. It is an increased cost which, in my opinion, does not seem to be warranted.
With regard to the fisheries in general, there is one very definite element which has to be taken into account in connection with the fishery question on the shores of our country, and that is the psychology of the Irish fisherman. The Irish fisherman is a very peculiar and temperamental being. In any schemes that we may evolve for the betterment and development of fisheries we have to take that element into account. The Irish fisherman, like Irishmen in other walks of life, expects a lot to be done for him. Our aim should rather be to develop in the fisherman the spirit of self-reliance and the spirit of initiative. I saw yesterday in the report of some of our industrialist associations a reference to the fact that the Irish fisherman has been too prone to stick to purely inshore fishing. They allege that the want of success in our fisheries is due to the fact that the fishermen are not equipped with gear which will enable them to follow the fish from the confines of their own harbour. There is a good deal in that. We find on our coasts men from all over the world— certainly from all over every maritime country in Western Europe—engaged in fishing there. We should try to encourage in our people the spirit of adventure. Sometimes, while there might be very good fishing off the coast of Donegal, there might be very bad fishing off the coast of County Cork. Our fishermen should be so equipped and provided with gear that they will be able to follow the fish where the fish abound. Something should be done on educational lines to inculcate in our people that spirit of initiative and adventure in regard to fishing.
That brings me to another point, which is that we have in the maritime towns of this country a lot of young men who, in the natural course of events, would have adapted themselves to the mercantile marine; that is, they would have gone as sailors on British ships. Owing to the decrease in British shipping, and the decline of foreign trade, a lot of those young men now find themselves without berths. I think it might be well for our Department of Fisheries to consider the question of equipping up-to-date trawlers. Mind, I want to get away from the idea of chartering secondhand trawlers of an out-of-date type, as we have done for the last few years. The building of modern trawlers, getting experienced men from other countries, if necessary, preferably Scotchmen, whom I find, from experience, to be the best men for that type of work, getting our own sailors to man those boats, to sail them under our own flag, and to carry on the fishing industry as it must be carried on—all those things are necessary for the success of that industry. You must have boats and you must have gear capable of dealing with this in a big way. You must have ships capable of staying at sea in all sorts of weather, and able to follow the shoals of fish from any part of the shore to another. This, of course, will involve expense. It will involve very much more; it will involve imagination; it will involve enterprise on the part of our Department, and, above all, it cannot be done without the Department making a generous gesture, and without the Government backing them with regard to funds. As I pointed out last night, the amount of money asked for in this vote is altogether inadequate for an industry that ought to be the second industry in this country. It ought to be second only to agriculture. The total amount asked for the whole service here—Gaeltacht Fisheries, the Sea Fisheries' Association, and all the other activities—is not one-tenth of what was spent last year on the cultivation of tobacco. As I pointed out, the increase on the Vote for the Civic Guard this year was about £70,000, principally necessitated by the creation of a new unit, and still our whole fishing industry is put down for a miserable sum of only £50,000. If this fishery question is to be taken seriously it has got to be tackled in a way in which it was not tackled in the past. More money is needed for it. If money can be found for the purposes I have indicated it certainly should be found in a very liberal manner, in order to encourage this very important industry, or rather what ought to be an important industry. It is not, at the present time, an important industry.
I think I have very little more to add on the matter, but I say that this whole question is one which has got to be examined very carefully. Hitherto it has not got the examination it requires. It has got nothing like the examination adequate to its importance. I would impress upon the Minister that he should do something bold, and do it very quickly, if the fishery industry on our coasts is going to be something better than it is. At the present time it is really non-existent. There is really no such thing as a fishing industry on our coasts. It is in a very spasmodic form, and is limited to a very low proportion of the people on our sea coast who might derive a profitable living from it if it were properly developed. I sympathise with the Minister, because I realise that he has a very difficult task. As I pointed out last night, I do not want to assail the present Government for any drawbacks in the present administration of the Fisheries Department, but I say that since we have assumed self-government in this country, since we got control of the affairs of our nation, neither the previous Government nor the present Government has grasped this problem or attempted to grapple with it in the way in which it should be grappled with. I sympathise with the Minister in dealing with—I do not want to be funny—this very slippery subject. It is one that certainly ought to command a little more attention, and a little more earnest consideration than up to now it has received. It is a Department upon which money might well be spent, and upon which money must be spent. There is no use in trying to tinker along with it in the way it has been tinkered with. It has been simply a tinkering Department up to now. I would appeal to the Minister, and to every Minister of the Government, as well as to the financial authorities behind them, to make a generous gesture with regard to doing something to give our fishermen on the shores of this country an adequate opportunity of getting trained in modern methods of fishing, and equipping our people—those who are already trained—with boats and gear to enable them to get some return from their labours on the sea. I would also appeal to the Minister to wipe out some of the old debts for boats which are out-of-date, which were bought at very high prices, and which became to us after the war a sort ofdamnosa hereditas. They were built at the peak of boat building costs, and proved after a short time totally inadequate, out-of-date and unfit for service.
With those remarks I will conclude, but I would ask the Minister to do something very bold. It must be done. The Fisheries Estimate here year after year has been, as I pointed out yesterday afternoon, a sort of joke. Fishing is not a joke. For the men who have got to go down to the sea in ships and earn their living in the waters it is anything but a joke. It is a very tragic experience for the best of them. Those who have to win their living from the sea have got a very arduous task indeed. They deserve the sympathy of the House; they deserve the consideration of the Government; and they deserve very liberal terms; because I really do say that sea fishing as an industry is not known in this country. It has never been really practised and it has not been understood by any of our administrators. I, therefore, make a very strong appeal now that this question should be tackled once and for all and should receive the consideration which such an important matter merits.
It is very gratifying to know that the Minister has at last determined to tackle this problem. I have not the experience of the fishing industry which Deputy O'Neill has and I will just deal with what experience I have gained from the fishermen of West Cork from the point of view of protection, which after all is the all-important factor. I have a suggestion to offer and I think suggestions are most valuable in this matter. Protection to be effective must have in it the element of surprise and to have the element of surprise you must be within reasonable striking distance. That, in itself, of course rules out all argument in favour of the "Muirchu" and even the provision of two or three boats of the same type would, I believe, not be effective. What I am going to suggest should interest not alone the Minister, but the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána. Deputy O'Neill stated that a big sum is being spent on a new force. Does not this provide an excellent opportunity, not alone to put this force into effective training, but to give them practical work to do? I am confident that it would pay the Minister for Finance if this matter was dealt with in the way I am suggesting as, not alone would you safeguard the fishing grounds, but you would prevent a large amount of foreign brandy coming in here which is being sold as whiskey. I am also confident that it would pay the Minister for Industry and Commerce to prevent other goods coming in here and being sold wholesale through the country.
These trawlers are off the coast of West Cork day after day and night after night. My suggestion is that the Minister should consult with the Minister for Defence and the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána and arrange for the employment of this new force in the work of protection. Personally, if I were in charge of my part of West Cork with ten men I would not let a trawler in there—I would clear them all out within a month. These trawlers come into the harbours there. On Sunday morning I saw one anchored inside Bantry Bay. You have 25 miles on the outside to cut off their retreat. You want disciplined men who are prepared to risk their lives at the job. Lifeboats that would stand the recoil of an effective gun would do the job. They should have a speed equal to the trawlers. I am told that a trawler when trawling cannot exceed two miles an hour and that its highest speed would be eight or ten knots. Once you create in these pirates a sense of insecurity they are finished. You can only create that by making them realise that the protective force is here, there and everywhere. To my mind, a protective force like that will save the Exchequer a pile of money.
Probably my suggestion will be turned down by the Department of Fisheries. Possibly all good and sound suggestions are always turned down or misunderstood. I believe, however, that the time is ripe to deal with this matter in the manner I am suggesting. It is time that the Department of Fisheries, the Department of Defence and the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána should go into this whole question. In my opinion, they are the only people who will be able to deal with this. I have had suggestions made to me by the practical fishermen of West Cork. These men spend night after night fishing. Their boats go as far as the Scottish coast and the Isle of Man. They have been in boats that stood the recoil of a 3-inch gun. I know that if I sent suggestions up to the Department they would only laugh at me. The time has come for an earnest effort to be made to deal with this matter. Anyone who says that the protection of the fisheries will cost more than the catch I believe is absolutely wrong.
Deputy O'Neill certainly raised a fundamental point about the catches off the coast in the time of the Great War and also about the old debts. One certainly has relation to the other. But for the great catches during the European War and the quantity of fish available you would not have these old debts to-day. These loans were made at the peak point of prosperity. They were made at a time when the banks were giving thousands of pounds to farmers and when a farmer would get £40 for an old sow. Personally, I think that the sooner the Department consider drawing the blue pencil across these debts the better. We do not want to criticise the Minister here. He has an enormous task before him. He certainly has done wonders for agriculture. Now he has taken up fisheries as a new branch. I earnestly pray that he will prove to be as successful in that as he has been in the other. I have no doubt that he will get the co-operation of Deputies opposite in dealing with this problem and that we shall have something effective done. I put forward my suggestion honestly and sincerely as the only alternative possible. The Minister should consult with the men who are able to do this, not alone for the sake of his own Department, but also for that of other Departments which are so vital to this State.
Níl sé ach seal gearr ó shoin ó chualamuid teachtaí Fianna Fáil ag gearán go mór ar Rialtas Mhic Chosgair cionn is nach rabh suim ná áird aca ar ghnaithe na hiascaireachta sa tír seo. Bhí siad fallsa, bhí siad fallaigheach, agus caidé'n locht nach rabh ortha?
'Nois, tá Rialtas Fianna Fáil le dhá bhliain againn agus ní fheicim go bhfuilmíd dadaidh níos fearr; go dearbhtha, déarfainn go bhfuil an chúis i bhfad níos measa. Gealladh dúinn go gcuirfí coimhéad géar ar na trálaerí agus nach leigfí iad isteach thar an teorainn bhí orduithe dhóibh. Chuirfí gárda trom ar iomlán an chósta leis an iascaireacht a chosaint ón namhaid bhradach so. Goidé nach ndéanfaí! Acht mo léan, ní dheachaidh an coimhéad i ndonas go dtí anois—tá trálaerí na Sasan istigh chois cloiche agus i n-imeall na dtráigheann agus níl duine le bac a chongbháil ortha.
Níl beann ná áird aca ar an "Muirchú" ná ní bhfuigheadh an sean-bhád sin greim ortha go deó. Tá siad i dteann-mhagaidh ar an "Muirchú" agus ar an Rialtas.
Níl amhras nach é an trálaereacht is cionntach leis an scrios atáthar a dhéanamh ar an iasc agus pór an éisc anois ar chostaí an iarthair.
Is cuimhneach liomsa an t-am—agus níl sé i bhfad ó shoin—nuair a bhí báighe mhór fhairsing Dhúin na nGall ó Cheann Glinne go Ceann Iorruis lán de iasc bhán—troisc, langaí, haddógaí, ceannógaí agus leitheannaí go leór. Bhí bádaí beaga na n-iascairí fhéin líonta leis an uile chur.
Bhí saothrú breágh aca agus biadh maith folláin dóibh féin agus dá gclainn.
Indiu níl trosc ná langa ná leith le fáil fá na cladaigh sin—tá siad uilig scuabtha ar siubhal ag trálaerí an allmhúraigh. Níor fhág siad pór an éisc fhéin nár mhill siad agus d'fhág gan bhrigh gan mhaith é.
'Nois nach dtiocfadh leis an Rialtas —má tá siad ar mhaithe le hiascairí na tíre—socrú no connradh no réidhteach éiginteacht a dhéanamh leis na tíortha atá cur isteach orrainn mar seo. Nach dtiocfadh socrú dhéanamh le sos deich mbliana a thabhairt do chósta an iarthair. 'Na chuideachta seo thiocfadh leis an Rialtas gléas póradh chur ar bun do'n iasc mar atá aca i gCanada agus i dtíorthaí eile. Rud eile chuirfinn i gcuimhne don Aire mion-oibreacha mar chéidheanna agus calaidh a thógáil ar chostaí an iarthair ach go h-áithrid ar chóstaí fhiadhaine Thír Chonaill.
Is iomdha iascaire a cailleadh dhíobháil port no caladh beag a bheith aige ar an chladach. Tá súil agam go bhfuightear caoi leis na mion-oibreacha seo a dhéanamh gan mhoill.
Let me start by remarking that the amount of money allocated to this particular Department is simply negligible and by no means commensurate with the importance of our fisheries, which if properly fostered and developed would be an invaluable asset to this country. Deputy O'Neill very properly and truly said it was second only in importance to agriculture. There is no doubt that so far as the inland fisheries are concerned there has been a considerable and marked improvement since the Free State was established. I have, like Deputy Fionán Lynch, a certain amount of sympathy with the genuine sportsman who surreptitiously hooks or spears a salmon, not for mere profit or gain but for the simple sport of the thing, but I do think that the penalties imposed on the poisoner who, with spurge orbainnicéan, destroys the whole river from its upper regions until it enters the sea are entirely inadequate to his offence.
Let me say in passing that while I am glad to see that the Limerick Board of Conservators are now being restored to a position of normalcy through the assistance of the Department, I am credibly informed that their financial position was largely due to inefficient administration and imperfect accountancy. However, the matter in which I, naturally, as a representative of the district which Deputies Hales and O'Neill are also representing, am chiefly concerned with is the coastal fisheries. Undoubtedly in recent years, for various reasons and owing to circumstances some of which were inevitable, the fishing industry has considerably declined. I can well remember myself when you could almost cross Baltimore Harbour by stepping from fishing boat to fishing boat. That port has now practically become a deserted village. During the war that and other ports were humming with industry. During that time, as has been pointed out by other speakers, many of the fishermen, hardworking, thrifty, industrious men, were encouraged when the fish were plentiful and their price had soared to inordinate heights to purchase fishing boats. Unfortunately the fishing industry collapsed and the result is that many of these men are unable to pay the debts which they incurred in the circumstances that then prevailed. In consequence many of their sureties are now being harassed day by day with threats of civil bills, plenary summonses and the machinery of the law. I agree with Deputy Hales that the time has arrived when in the interests of the Free State and for the encouragement of the fisheries the blue pencil ought to be drawn through all these debts. It is a fact, and it is well known to some of the representatives here, that the fishery harbours, our coves, creeks and harbours, are now full of rotting hulks which I may describe as the unsplendid wrecks of former times.
I do appeal to the Minister, who, I am sure, will be very sympathetic and will do his best in the matter to come to the relief of these poor people who, through no fault of their own, have become unable to meet their obligations. By doing so he will give encouragement to the fishermen of the area which I have the honour to represent.
Last evening Deputy Corry made the most sensible and certainly the sanest speech I ever heard him make in this House. It reminded me of the old saying that out of the mouths of babes wisdom comes. I am quite sure, and I would lay more than an even bet, that the Deputy could not distinguish between a brill and a turbot, a pilchard and a herring, but he was quite right in saying—though these observations created some cachinnation and giggling in the House—that most of the so-called sardines sold in this country are in reality Irish sprats. I believe that is about the truest thing that Deputy Corry or any other Deputy ever gave expression to in this House. It strikes me that most of the Deputies in this House are interested in angling because, judging from the truthfulness of the statements usually made here, I am sure that they are all devotees of Izaak Walton.
What is really of great importance is the protection of our coasts from the foreign trawlers. We have historical evidence that from the very earliest times foreigners have found the Irish sea coasts happy hunting grounds. I may tell the Minister and the Government that in the old days, as may be learned from some of the ancient inquisitions, the Irish chieftains made them pay very well for their incursions into Irish water. It is a great pity that with all the machinery, all the instruments of protection which are within the grasp of a modern Government, no effective steps have so far been taken to preserve our fisheries from daily attacks and encroachments by foreign trawlers. As a matter of fact, I may say that at the present time the position is simply Gilbertian. Some time ago a friend of mine in France sent me a French paper—I think it is calledL'Ouest. I am not now saying that my pronunciation is either according to Hoyle or Cocker. So far as I can make out, that is more or less the correct French pronunciation.
It is the French for sprats.
This paper is recognised as "Truth in the News" of France. I read in it that there is a common fund established by the fishermen of France out of which all penalties imposed on them for trawling within the territorial waters of another State are paid. That was printed in the very largest type, such a type as sometimes is used to report Deputy Corry's speeches when he delivers an oration of supreme national importance. I am aware that some time ago a Spanish boat was caught infringing the law, and a very smart penalty was put on the skipper. His gear was confiscated. When the captain was released from custody he said: "One scrape on my way out will pay the whole cost." This is a state of affairs that surely the Government is able to cope with and I am sure every Deputy here will agree that it should be dealt with drastically and at once. There are just running through my mind some lines of Rudyard Kipling which, with necessary modifications, I may apply to the situation with regard to the trawlers invading our coastal waters:—
English there be and canny Scottie
Who hang on our inshore flank
And the pirate Dane and the robber from Spain,
But the worst of them all is the Frank.
In all sincerity and with all the earnestness of which I am capable I appeal to the Minister and those associated with him to take immediate steps to put an end to what has become a shame and a disgrace to the Free State. It means a big loss to the industrious fishermen along not only the West Cork coast but the coast-line all around Ireland. I was very glad to observe this morning that the Government is affording some relief to the poor lobster men. Lobster fishermen wring a very scanty and a very precarious livelihood from the reluctant bosom of what Homer calls the unvintageable brine. Very few Deputies are aware of the difficult conditions under which those toilers of the deep ply their trade. I will take one island along the coast of West Cork as an example. I suppose Hare Island is one of the poorest places in the whole country. Men from that island carry on their calling from the Blaskets to Ballycotton. They venture into the sea in open boats. They cook their meagre meals on board. At night time they seek refuge in some sheltered cove. What they earn after all this difficult and dangerous work would be considered by any Labour representative in this House, and rightly considered, a wretched reward for very strenuous toil. I therefore hope that in addition to the relief which the Minister has already afforded to the lobster men he will give further assistance to those people to whom I have referred. They really deserve the fullest consideration and the most liberal encouragement.
Aontuím leis na teachtaí adeireann go bhfuil iascaireacht na tíre ag dul síos le roinnt blianta agus is deacair a rá cé tá cionntach leis sin. 'Sé mo thuairim féin ná fuil éinne cionntach leis ar an dtaobh so de'n tigh ná ar an dtaobh eile, ach is fíor go bhfuil an scéal gan bheith ar fónamh. Dubhairt an teachta Mac Pháidín go raibh droch-scéal ann fhaid is bhí Rialtas Chumann na nGaedheal ag stiúrú na hoibre seo ach go bhfuil an scéal níos measa anois fé Rialtas Fianna Fáil. Ní dóigh líom go bhfuil an ceart aige mar tá rudaí déanta ag Rialtas Fianna Fáil nár dhein Rialtas Chumann na nGaedheal le linn a réime agus ná raibh cuimhne aca ar iad do dheánamh. Ar an gcéad dul síos, nuair a bhí an Rialtas san annso, bhí cead ag na trálaeirí teacht agus cur isteach ar an iascaireacht agus níor dhein an Rialtas san iarracht chun stop do chur leo ach amháin an bád "Muirchú" do chur ar an bhfairrge. Ba lag an iarracht é sin, ach tá Bille curtha i bhfeidhm againn-ne annso chun é sin a dhéanamh agus tá súil againn go dtiocfaidh rud eigin fónta as. Tá súil agam féin go mbainfear tairbhe as an Acht san chun cose a chur leis an ndroch-obair atá á dhéanamh ag na trálaeirí, mar is acasan atá an díobháil is mó á dhéanamh. Tuigeann muinntear an Tighe seo go léir é sin, um an dtaca so, is dóigh liom. Ní ceart go mbeadh aon mhoill leis an Acht san do chur i bfheidhm mar sin. Go dtí go mbeidh stop curtha leis na trálaeirí ní bheidh rí ná rath ar iascaireacht na tire seo.
I agree with those Deputies who said that the fishing industry has been on the decline for a good many years. It is very hard to know where to apportion the blame. I do not think there is anyone to blame, either on this side of the House or on the opposite side, because, in the first place, the situation, as far as the fishing industry is concerned, has become chronic, so much so that it will take years of endeavour and keen concentration to bring it back to anything like a satisfactory standard again. A month or two ago a Bill was introduced here for the protection of the fisheries. The object, of course, was to provide powers by which foreign trawlers coming to our coast with the intention of fishing, and executing depredations upon the home fishermen, could be dealt with and stopped. So far we have had no satisfactory results in that direction. I hope, in the near future, three, four, five or six motor launches will be provided and equipped and fitted with armaments if necessary, to enable them to bring these trawlers, carrying out any depredations on our coast, to account.
Like other Deputies who have spoken, I was very glad this morning to learn it was the intention of the Minister to pay bounties on the export of lobsters. We have been pleading for that in the last year and a half, ever since the British first imposed tariffs, because we realised that as long as these tariffs existed there was not much chance for our fishermen deriving any profit from the lobster fishing industry. Listening to Deputy O'Neill one would imagine that it was he was responsible for the bringing about of this bounty on lobsters. One thing the Minister has to his credit, already, since he assumed control of the fisheries of this State, is that he has given this intimation of paying bounties until further notice on the export of lobsters. There is one thing, and it is most important, that I wish to stress: that is the condition by which people have to pay a deposit of so much per cent. before they can get boats from the Sea Fisheries Association. I emphasise this point very much. It is our avowed intention to do our best for the fishing industry, and to promote it in every way, and while giving expression to these sentiments in words, that we are out to promote the fishing industry in this country, we come along and place what amounts to a heavy tariff on the industry of the fishermen. It is worse than a tariff. It is an initial tax. Before the men can go out fishing at all they have to plank down a deposit on the nail, before they can get a boat. I do not think that is in keeping with wise procedure. If this is being done from the point of view of security, the boat should be sufficient security, because the boat will be all the time the property of the Sea Fisheries Association, and ultimately the property of the Department.
Again, under this system of deposit a person with a little more money than his neighbour will get a boat though he may not be half as well up in the fishing business as the person who has no money. That is why I say this deposit condition should be completely eliminated in this business. As I said, it amounts almost to a tariff. It is bad enough to have a direct tariff on the product of the industry without having another introduced now. I hope the Minister will see his way to revoke this condition and to provide boat and gear for the people who want them and have rendered a good account of themselves for the past eight or ten years.
Now, before I deal with the inland fisheries, I take it that the chief difference between the policy of the present Fianna Fáil Government and the policy of the previous Government with regard to fishing is this: The previous Government were more in favour of encouraging trawling and chartering trawlers from outside for the purpose of keeping the Irish market with a constant supply of fish. It is the policy of the present Government to develop the inshore fisheries first, and, I think, that is the wiser policy, because when that is made a success, out of it the other will develop. I am glad to see that it is the intention of the Minister to convert those boats lying idle in the boatyards to some use. Perhaps, after a while, when the inland fisheries are brought up to standard we can then turn our attention to trawling.
With regard to the inland fisheries there are many complaints made that our rivers are not properly protected from the depredations of poachers and people like that. It would not be so bad if these people confined themselves to ordinary poaching, but in some cases they come along at night and dynamite a river. That state of affairs is particularly applicable to the Feale and Cashen rivers in which I am deeply interested. I advise the Minister to look to this question of the protection of the rivers, and to make sure that no further depredations of this sort will be allowed. Another point. I do not think it is advisable to allow net fishing on other than tidal waters. Many people have made representations to me in reference to that, and pointed out that such a thing is always injurious to rod and line fishing. That is all I want to say; I will finish by thanking the Minister, on behalf of the fishermen engaged in the lobster fishing industry, for his guaranteeing them a bounty on their export of lobsters.
I have been in this House for about 11 years, and there is very little difference in the speeches I heard to-day from those delivered during that time, on this Estimate. One refers to the Estimate with a feeling more of sorrow than anger, and what one has most about the fishing industry is a sort of feeling of hopelessness. I might be unduly pessimistic but that feeling has not been alleviated much by a great deal of what I heard in this debate. Word for word it is a repetition of the annual tale in connection with this industry.
Deputy Lynch's statement last night was fair. He was anxious to be helpful, but practically admitted that during the time that he had charge of this Department very little progress was made. Changes were made in certain directions, but generally the industry continued to decline. I should like to hear from the Minister what proposal he has for ascertaining definitely what is wrong. The provision of facilities in the way of gear and equipment, and for restricting the invasion of the fishing grounds, in which Irishmen should have first claim, are all to the good. I should like to know if the Minister has examined the position sufficiently to ascertain if there is nothing more wrong with the industry. Has the Minister satisfied himself that more rapid progress could not be made, or is it the position Deputy Kissane referred to, that that will take long and weary years. I desire to support my colleagues from West Cork with regard to the necessity for protecting our fisheries. I noticed with pleasure that recently fines have been imposed which have been very substantial. That was a source of complaint in the past. Without wishing to comment in any way on judicial decisions, it was felt that the protection given in that way was anything but adequate. If the penalties are made more severe that should help to stop foreign poachers. Deputy Corry and other Deputies who went to the trouble of making suggestions as to how better protection might be organised deserve a good deal of credit. The difficulty when dealing with a question like this is to find people with constructive views. We are all pretty free in complaining, but when we get down to the task of examining the position, it is much more difficult to produce a constructive scheme of organisation. I would like to hear what the Minister's proposals are.
What are the proposals of the Sea Fisheries Association to secure the regular sale of fresh fish in inland towns? Attempts in that direction in the past were not successful. There is an opportunity to do a good deal in that way. Last year I found in more than one seaside town that not a bit of fresh fish was available. One begins to wonder why people have to be contented with tinned fish in places like Castletownbere on Fridays. There is certainly room for improvement in that direction. I should remind the Minister that the Sea Fisheries Association is not in many parts a very popular organisation with fishermen. I am not going to enter into the cause now, as I am not in a position to judge, but a good many of the fishermen feel that that Association could be much more helpful.
I re-echo what Deputy Kissane said as to the initial outlay demanded from fishermen, many of whom while being capable fishermen, are not in a position to find substantial sums of money to deposit for the purchase of boats. I wish to support what other Deputies pointed out, the necessity of improving the facilities for landing boats, and providing shelter. Co-operation between the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, who certainly knows a good deal about this industry, should certainly be helpful by providing grants out of the relief schemes for small marine works here and there along the coast. That would make the work of the fishermen easier.
The Minister might also consider the advisability of examining into the question of how far our harbours are safe for fishermen who have to use them at night. There have been complaints for many years about the lighting of harbours, about the removal of certain marks and lights in West Cork which have not been replaced. Finally I want to endorse what has been said regarding outstanding loans. The officials of the Fishery Department are deceiving themselves in retaining accounts dealing with these loans on the books. They are absolutely irrecoverable. The main responsibility for that state of affairs is the decline of the industry. If the policy of trying to recover these loans is continued it simply means mulcting kindly neighbours who backed up the fishermen when there were better possibilities in the industry. As Deputy Hales said, many people purchased boats at a time when there was a shortage of food. When the demand declined they found themselves in a difficult position. Boats have been lying derelict at Baltimore for that reason. There is no earthly chance of recovering this money, except the Minister wants to recover it from those who went security. That would be a hardship, as long as the persons who are primarily responsible for the debts are there. I believe the Minister feels it would be unwise to pursue that policy, more especially in view of the undertaking given by the President and other Ministers, that the slate would be wiped clean. At least, that was the view taken, that the slate would be wiped clean of old loans. I am anxious to hear what the Minister has to say on the points raised. I feel that the Minister's position is not a very enviable one but he will have the co-operation of all sides in trying to make it easy for him, and to make the results as fruitful as possible.
Deputy O'Neill appealed to the Minister to bring about a spirit of initiative and adventure in our young fishermen. The Deputy was probably referring to men who have not yet taken up fishing as an avocation. It would be a wise thing to pursue that proposal. Where is the initiative to come from? It is clear that it can only come if there is some inducement from the Department. We are going backwards instead of going forward in this industry. There is no use in bandying criticism about responsibility. The young men of to-day were only ten or twelve years old when the war ceased and when the collapse came about in the fishing industry. In the intervening period, for all practical purposes, the fishing industry around our shores is dead. There is no blinking the fact that the Irish fishing industry is practically dead. The sooner we face the fact the better. Having reached that conclusion, what are we going to do? In my opinion the greatest blunder that could be made was made recently, in the division of the Gaeltacht and Fishery Services. That was a primary blunder, and until it is remedied we are not going to succeed, because the men who originally amalgamated or set up the machine to deal with these twin services were men who had intimate acquaintance with the question. They were men of vision and courage.
What did they do? Under the British administration, through the efforts of the Irish Parliamentary Party, pressure was brought to bear on the British Government to set aside a considerable sum of money which was to be put at the disposal of a board to deal with this problem. In other words, it was considered then that it was a problem in and by itself. At the inception of the Free State, after the Treaty, the Congested Districts Board was abolished. In my opinion, that was a blunder of the very first magnitude, because, I again repeat that, in my judgment, this is a problem by itself. It is a problem that should be dealt with by itself, and is a whole-time job for any Minister. This method of dealing with the question is purely tinkering with it. It is purely a waste of money. What is this Vote for? What is going to be done with this money when it is voted here? Nothing. You are only, as I have said, tinkering with the job, and this method of dealing with it is leading nowhere. What do we find here? This invalid baby is being handed over to the Minister for Agriculture, and while I do not want to exaggerate the responsibilities which he has already, I think he will himself be the first to admit that the job he has already is more than one man's job. Certainly, I think it is highly unfortunate that the Minister was so unwise as to accept responsibility for this Department, whoever pressed it on him.
In three years we have had three different Ministers for this Department. I think the three Votes we have had for the past three years were under separate Ministries. What impression does that give one except, as I have said already, that of handing round the baby? The first man put in charge of it tired of it. It was passed on to another man. He passed it on to the next man who will, I suppose, pass it on to somebody else. We hear talk about protection. Protection for what? Protecting the fisheries of a State which only consumes two pounds of fish per head of the population. We talk about self-sufficiency, self-sufficiency in everything. Yet our consumption of fish averages only two pounds per head of the population, while the consumption in England is approximately 32 pounds per head of the population. Just contrast these figures. Everybody knows that England is a predominantly Protestant country, and that there is no obligation to eat fish any day in the week. There is an obligation on the majority of the people in this Catholic State to eat fish at least once a week, and yet we consume only two pounds of fish per head of the population. Where is the use of protecting the industry if that is the total consumption for the country? There is no industry to protect.
Again I come back to the suggestion of Deputy O'Neill with regard to some initiative on the part of our people. The trouble is where is that to come from? If some organisation is founded to create and generate that initiative, where is it to come from? Clearly it has to be a Government Department or a department financed by the Government under Government control, but, if you like, acting semi-independently. In my opinion it is sheer waste of time to deal with this question unless it is done in that way. I would venture to prophesy that no matter what the Minister's intentions are, though they be of the very best, he has not time at his disposal to deal with the problem. Certainly the money he is asking for this year is not going to lead him anywhere. He is just going to end where all the rest ended—he is going to end in failure. I say that the division of the Gaeltacht and fishery services was a primary blunder on the part of the Government. I would ask the Minister at the earliest date that he can, with dignity to himself, to get rid of this responsibility and hand it to somebody else. Let it go back where it was originally, and let us have a Department for dealing exclusively with fisheries and the Gaeltacht. Assuming we are going to have the Department as at present, what line is the Minister going to take?
Last year when the Vote was introduced by the Parliamentary Secretary, he had a complaint to make about difficulties in regard to fuel. His trouble then was, if I remember correctly, that we had not a supply of native fuel but luckily he said a new discovery had been made and we were using crude oil for trawlers. In the statement read out last night by the Minister there was practically not a word about the trawlers. There was not a word about the trawling organisation or what happened the trawlers. Was it that they departed from the use of home fuel and began to use crude oil and that the smoke which issued from them was so black that they landed in some black sea, so black that they were not able to get back? What has happened to the trawlers? What is their record for the past year? There is not a word about them in the statement read out by the Minister and the inference that I drew from that was that the trawlers had been lost because the Minister went on to state that smaller boats are going to be completed for a sort of semi-inshore fishing. Apparently, the new fleet is not going to be allowed to go abroad. They are not going to be allowed into the Black Sea, so black that the trawlers could not get back. Surely, the first thing the Minister should have told us was what happened the trawlers. What of these powers of propulsion with the new fuel that was apparently so effective according to the Parliamentary Secretary last year?
Deputy Kissane has told the House from the depths of his wisdom that the policy of this Government with regard to fisheries is the reverse of that pursued by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government. They have certainly reversed the progress of the previous Government. The Fianna Fáil Government are going to adopt inshore fishing. Everybody who knows anything about fisheries, knows that our inshore fishing is as much developed as it ever will be and that for all practical purposes all the fishing our fishermen do is inshore fishing. If this country is ever going to have a constant supply of fish, it will not be because of all this prating about self-sufficiency. We are at present importing 50 per cent. of our fish supplies. Yesterday somebody asked was not this an island surrounded by water. I understood that islands are usually surrounded by water. This is an island surrounded by water and what kind of water is it?
The Atlantic Ocean, which is supposed to be teeming with fish. Yet we import 50 per cent. of our fish supplies. That is a nice commentary on the efforts of this Department—getting crude oil for a fleet of trawlers, sending them to sea and saying not a word of what happened them or of how successful they were or how much fish they caught. Deputy Corry told us last night that it is always the same old tale with regard to this Department and that we are importing and exporting the same amount of fish. Are we to take it that these trawlers were supplied with crude oil and got lost in the convex world? I should like to know from the Minister if he intends to confine developments to inshore fishing. If that is his policy, there is no doubt that we shall never supply the total requirements of our people.
When I saw that this Department was being passed on to the Minister I was curious to know why that was being done. When I saw the Order made about the slaughtering of the calves I was wondering was he going to have handed on to him an order for the slaughter of fish, and I said to myself that if it is going to be done it will be a good thing, because if the fish are slaughtered, whether it is to be done by trawlers or by small inshore boats, it is a sound proposal. Now, as I said, the trawling and inshore fishing are developed as much as possible. Take, for example, Downings, Lough Swilly, Burtonport, and the whole West coast of Ireland— night after night and day after day the men are out fishing and trying to get what they can.
There has been a lot of complaint about the trawlers and about protection for fishing. Undoubtedly, this question of protection is a major issue. When the Fianna Fáil Party were on these benches, and when I was not in this House, I used to be interested and amused reading their speeches. A lot of their speeches were very amusing— the jokes about the "Muirchu" and so on. About a fortnight or three weeks ago I was down in Donegal and I was told that the "Muirchu" was in Killybegs harbour. By a curious coincidence, Deputy Lynch, in his speech last night, mentioned certain proceedings of the Moville Board of Conservators and that while the meeting was going on there were trawlers close in to the shore around the coast of Inishowen at the time. While the meeting was being held the "Muirchu" was in at the south of the county while the board of conservators were meeting at the north of the county. It reminded me of a "Life of Napoleon" that I once read, where it described the time when Napoleon was in Egypt and the French fleet was destroyed. Napoleon had no way of getting home, and everybody thought that he was a prisoner and could not get back. Nelson was in the Mediterranean with the British fleet at the time. Napoleon succeeded in making his way home and afterwards there were cartoons in the comic papers of the time showing Nelson on the deck of a warship in the Mediterranean flirting with Lady Hamilton while Napoleon in a small boat was getting around the coast and home to France. I was reminded of that story when I heard the description of the depredations of the trawlers around the coast up there while the "Muirchu" was in harbour. Probably the officers were flirting with the maidens of Killybegs.
The whole thing would sound humorous if it were not that it is a serious matter, but the way it is being dealt with makes it humorous, and even the most unhumorous person would have to regard it as funny. This House should take this thing in hand. Let the Government do something, and I am sure that, so far as every Deputy in this House is concerned, the Government will have their whole-hearted assistance in any scheme they propose or their assistance in propounding a scheme. If it is going to be dealt with properly, let the Minister this year ask for a sum of money commensurate with the requirements of this matter and let the Government, with the assistance of everybody in the House, launch that scheme as a great national scheme, and then there will be some chance of success. A Deputy spoke of aeroplanes. What is the use of talking about aeroplanes out on the West Coast of Ireland on a wild and stormy January night during the spring fishing, when the winds are blowing across the Atlantic at 60 or 70 miles an hour? An aeroplane could not live for five minutes. Deputy Kissane says that he is going to have armed launches. I thought the Deputy came from Kerry. An armed launch would last about half an hour in a boiling, raging sea off the Donegal coast on a winter night. If she went out any distance she would never get back. If we are to have protection, it must be protection by gunboats or something of that kind that can go out to sea in any kind of weather and can stay there in any weather. They must have a speed also, equal to or in excess of that of any of the trawlers.
That disposes of the future of the Department as such, the question of trawling, and the question of protection. Then there is the question of the inland fisheries. There has been a falling off in the receipts, but the Minister has given us a reason for that with regard to the extended grants to the Limerick and Erne Fishery Boards and the withdrawal of reservations of the right to fish in certain cases. I should say that inland fisheries, generally, are enormously improved. All our rivers, so far as I know, are immensely improved. The fishing in many of the inland rivers this year is better than it ever has been. So far as protection is concerned, the bailiffs and Guards are doing excellent work, and are also doing splendid work in conjunction with the customs men at the export points. The customs men are very efficient in the matter of stopping any consignments of fish going out of the country either by sea or overland through Northern Ireland. I think it would be very unfair and very unjust of this House not to pay a tribute to the wonderful work done by the Civic Guards in that respect. They are out all night, often having to battle with poachers, getting wet and in danger of injury. I have known of some of them being permanently injured and, owing to some technical flaw, not getting any compensation. Accordingly, I think it would be very unfair of this House not to pay an adequate tribute to the services they are rendering for the protection of our inland fisheries. The Minister cannot do anything this year, but if he is going to keep this invalid baby in his arms he should try to do something this year to keep it alive, and if not he should shake the ashes off his feet as soon as he can.
I am particularly interested in the proposal to erect a purification tank for mussels in Dublin Bay. It is quite true that the market for mussels has been closed owing to the fact that medical officers on the other side have declared their suspicion that germs are coming in in the mussels, and consequently the market was closed. Although we have a narrow coastline in County Meath, we have an industry which is capable of expansion, an industry which, in past years, gave an amount of employment to a large number of people. I am quite aware of the fact that the Government allocated £5,000 in last year's Estimate for the erection of a purification tank in Dublin Bay. It was a demonstration of their will to do something for the mussel fisheries, but a great delay has ensued.
The Minister stated, in his opening speech, that he found difficulties in his way in having the tank erected. He mentioned the fact that a 30 per cent. duty has been placed upon the mussels entering on the other side. I would suggest to him, however, that he should provide, as he has in the case of the lobster fishing, a bounty on the export of mussels. I believe these fishermen would be as much entitled to a bounty as the people who are sending their cattle across to Britain. The rumour has gone abroad—the Minister has not made the statement— that the market on the other side has been somewhat restricted of late. I am told by the fishermen in Mornington who, I believe, know all about mussel fishing and the mussel market that that market is not restricted, that they had numerous inquiries last year which they were unable to supply and that there is a likelihood of the same thing happening this year. I believe that the Sea Fisheries Association, who are responsible for pushing forward the erection of the tank, are rather dilatory in the methods they employ. If the Sea Fisheries Association do not proceed speedily in carrying out the work, I suggest that the Minister should take it out of their hands altogether. Deputy Lynch, the ex-Minister for Fisheries, stated last evening that his Government were prepared to give a certain amount of money to the Sea Fisheries Association to carry out their work. The Sea Fisheries Association was established in 1930. In 1932, when Fianna Fáil came into power, they found that nothing had been done for the mussel fishing. There was no tank erected, although the call was there for a considerable time. At that time there were no tariffs on mussels entering the English market. The Deputy cannot pat himself on the back and say that he, or his Ministry, at that time, did anything for the mussel fisheries. I believe that his methods deserved the condemnation which they received at our hands.
I suggest to the Minister that if he considers that the overhead charge of the central tank in Dublin Bay would be too great, he should allow the fishermen of Mornington to erect a smaller tank. The proposal was made a few years ago by the fishermen there that they should be allowed to erect, at a cost of £700 or £800, a miniature tank on the lines of the tank at Conway, in North Wales. If the Minister thinks that the market is not sufficiently big to justify the larger proposal, perhaps he would consider the possibility of erecting a smaller tank, which would ensure that the fishermen of Mornington and Baltray, on the County Louth side, would be able to supply the market which they believe is in existence. They are dependent on grants in the winter time. Last year, and the year before, we had grants devoted to the enlarging of the mussel beds, so that this year, and in future years, the fishing grounds will be larger than they were and the fishing industry will be capable of greater expansion. Last year, a shelter was put up for the fishing boats and for those things the fishermen are very grateful to the Ministry. At the same time, they do not look merely for the provision of relief grants. They believe that, if a relief grant be given, it should be devoted to the erection of a purification tank. Three or four hundred people in Mornington engage in fishing and earn their livelihood by mussel fishing. When the summer season is finished, they enter upon mussel fishing—in October of each year—and carry on during the winter months. I think that the Minister expressed the hope that this tank would be erected during the year. I urge him, in the interest of these men and their families, to speed up the initial work in connection with the erection of the tank. These men are looking forward to the day when they will be able to resume the export of mussels to the English market. In connection with inland fisheries, I urge upon the Minister the necessity for withdrawing the licence or permission to have nets in fresh water. On the River Boyne, there are a couple of nets which catch all the fish which pass through the tidal waters. The anglers in the upper reaches who have paid licence fees each year are, as a result, unable to catch any salmon.
Everything that could usefully be said on this Vote has already been said. Therefore, I do not propose to occupy the time of the House for longer than five or six minutes. Deputy Murphy said, in the course of his remarks, that there was a very striking similarity between the speeches delivered on this Estimate this afternoon and the speeches delivered a year ago, two years ago, or even ten years ago. This industry appears to me to be the cinderella of Irish industries. I do not pretend to have much knowledge of sea fisheries, but I do claim to have some knowledge of the inland fisheries. I have spent a great deal of my spare time in both deep sea and inland fishing. One thing which struck me very frequently in connection with these debates, and in connection with the position as we know it, is that if fish are to be found in abundance around our coasts and if it is profitable and a good economic proposition for foreign trawlers to come in and reap the harvest of our seas, why is it that it could not be made a paying proposition for our people in similar circumstances, assuming that they are similarly equipped? We claim, and claim with truth, that our fishermen are as daring and as brave as any of their class anywhere. Complaint has been made that they are not sufficiently equipped. If this is found to be a good business proposition for other people, how is it a sufficient number of Irish nationals, with enterprise, will not act up to their protestations and invest in an industry of this character or subsidise it to some extent without calling on the State? It is appalling, not to say humiliating, to find that, in the case of nearly every industry, people are calling for subsidies, subsidies, and still more subsidies. The question of bounties has been raised again. My experience of bounties—it is, of course, quite recent —is that they are most provocative to the traders, who have to wait to get the bounties back from the Government Department. If the Government are going to add one further method of provocation to the people, I would suggest to them that they should add another bounty. I do not want to be taken now as saying anything that would militate against our deep sea fishermen, but I feel it is time whether the speakers come from Fianna Fáil or from Fine Gael that they should drop this begging of bounties, and still more bounties.
The question of loans was referred to by Deputy Murphy and other Deputies. They suggested that these loans were given at a time when the fishermen, and the fishing industry generally, were at the peak point of prosperity—that is to say, during the war period and for some time after. They have put forward a suggestion that the people who went security for the loans granted should be relieved of any further responsibility. That, in my opinion, is highly immoral unless you are going to make the whole thing retrospective and make a refund to those who have met their obligations. It would be unfair, I think, to give an advantage now to certain persons who went security for boats and other things during that period. Personally I deprecate that attitude very much. I would much prefer to see these people standing on their own feet and not have the hope held out to every person who is wailing about industry that we are going to give bounties, because, in the long run, it is the ordinary people who will have to pay those bounties.
A good deal has been said about the shortage of fish in this island, where one might assume we would have a plentiful supply of fresh fish all the year round. Those engaged in the industry, whether they are the people who finance it and are the chief distributors, the ordinary fishermen, will tell you that unless you have one great pool in the Irish Free State, or, alternatively, unless you contribute to some bigger pool across the Channel, you will never have a constant supply of fish in this country, and when I say that I mean a supply for the 365 days in every year. Apart from those who earn their livelihood by catching fish— indeed they make a very precarious livelihood from it—anybody who knows anything about the habits of fish must know that it is not by any means certain that you will always meet fish, in the way, say, that you meet cattle, and that all you have to do is simply to throw out your nets and haul them in. Anyone who follows fish, whether at sea or inland, must know that their habits are frequently very uncertain, although of course there are certain well-established signs by which you can make a fairly useful estimate. My opinion is that without having a great pool in this country, where all your fish could be pooled and then distributed, there is not any use in subsidising the industry. We were told yesterday that the Minister's heart had softened and that he was going to give a bounty on lobsters. That, to an extent, would help a number of people around the coast, but it does not spell "fisheries." It is only one branch of the whole industry.
I do not want to repeat the requests that I have made here on previous occasions. In some measure these requests have been met by the ex-Minister for Fisheries and also, to an extent, by one or other of the Ministers who followed him in office. Having regard to certain evidence given quite recently before the Commission that has been set up to inquire into the inland fisheries, the Department may get some useful hints as a result of the Commission's investigations and I suggest to the Minister that his Department should act on any suggestions made as far as it can be usefully done. I would urge on the Minister the great importance that all authorities attach to State hatcheries. I do know that the Department has done something in that way. It has acted very liberally towards anglers' associations and such bodies, especially in giving them yearling trout. I would urge on the Department that there should be closer contact between the various anglers' associations—it need not be official contact—but contact in the sense that they would know what is going on in the various areas, and the extent to which the stocking of the rivers is a success or otherwise. Again, every angler who has ever fished for salmon or trout, particularly for trout, must know that many rivers in Ireland which were reputed to hold, and did hold a good deal of fish, have of late years fallen away very much. Because of that I am afraid that unless we have re-stocking, much of the great name which many of our inland rivers had for trout-fishing will disappear.
Last evening the ex-Minister for Fisheries, Deputy Fionán Lynch, made a suggestion to the effect that there should be a reduction in the amount paid for salmon licences in the case of trout anglers who would like to take out a licence for the killing of salmon trout. I am not going to go into the various forms of salmon life. I will refer simply to what is known assalmo trutta, generally referred to as salmon trout. I would urge on the Minister that he should agree to act on the suggestion made by Deputy Fionán Lynch. Many trout anglers who fish for ordinary brown trout may, in the course of their fishing, hook a salmon trout. The salmon trout will take the same fly as the brown trout, and the person who has not a salmon licence, if he happens to hook a salmon trout, will either have to throw it back into the river or run the risk of being prosecuted and heavily fined if he is caught with it. Deputy Lynch suggested that a licence at a charge of £1 should be made available so that men fishing for brown trout, who accidentally catch a salmon trout, may be saved from the risk of prosecution by having that £1 licence. As Deputies are aware, a salmon licence is £2, so that all that is in question here is the sum of £1.
I am against the principle altogether of charging any licence to brown trout anglers. I think it is a bad principle. I agree with Deputy Fionán Lynch that it would be better to have the £1 licence than none at all. Speaking as one who always takes out his licence, I feel that you have numbers of working class people who cannot afford a £1 licence. They will not fish for salmon, but quite accidentally they will sometimes kill a salmon trout and, once in a way, they may have the opportunity of killing them in tidal waters. I think that the Minister would be doing an acceptable thing if he removed from the Act the section which renders a person liable to prosecution and fine if he is caught in the possession of a salmon trout without having a salmon licence. In making that appeal to the Minister, I am not thinking of myself or of others like me who can afford the £1 licence, but rather of the thousands and thousands of anglers, working class people, who go out Sunday after Sunday to enjoy a day's fishing but who, if caught with a salmon trout in their possession, will be prosecuted and fined. These are the only points that I want to urge on the Minister. My last appeal to him is to see if anything can be done by way of further re-stocking our rivers with yearling trout.
The last speaker referred to the question of a pool for fish. In actual practice, the operations of the Sea Fisheries Association work out that way. They do pool the catches of fish and distribute them in accordance with the demand. When the Deputy cavils at bounties, he should realise that there is no question of a bounty for deep-sea fishing whatever. Two speakers on the opposite side made play with the fact that Ministerial responsibility had been changed three times since Fianna Fáil came into office. I do not think there is any point in that because, when they were here and had Governmental responsibility, they decided that they would not hold direct responsibility themselves for the question of fishery development. They delegated their authority to an association known as the Sea Fisheries Association, and that body has the immediate and effective control of the development of sea fisheries. It does not make a whole lot of difference in actual practice what particular titular head is attached to the Fisheries Department, at all events so far as sea fisheries are concerned.
With regard to the operations of the Sea Fisheries Association, Deputy McMenamin, a while ago, wanted to know where the trawlers had gone, and he asked if they had gone to the Black Sea and been swallowed up. If he had examined the question, he could quite easily have found out what happened to them. When the Party to which he is attached were the Government Party, they gave sanction to the Association for the undertaking of a rather large and costly trawler experiment to develop the catching of fish in Irish waters. A number of trawlers, which were idle across the Channel, were brought over at a rather high figure. The two principal employees came with the boats and, after several years' operation, it was discovered that these boats had resulted in a net loss of between £40,000 and £50,000. The Fianna Fáil Government came in and they put a stop to it very quickly. That is what happened to the trawlers. Our Government was not satisfied to spend huge sums of money on foreign chartered trawlers from which the Irish fishing community were not getting any direct benefit. With regard to the supply of our own fish, it will be interesting to a number of people to learn that for an expenditure of over £50,000 on that experiment, there was a gross take of fish worth about £14,000, which was reduced, after expenses were deducted, to £9,000. That is what happened to the trawlers, if Deputy McMenamin is interested in hearing it, and I think the Government was quite wise and quite right in putting an end to it.
The Deputy also said that there is not any fishing industry here and he pointed out that the Irishman eats only 2 lbs. of fish as compared with 32 lbs. eaten by an Englishman. Almost in the same breath, he asked the Government to appoint a special Minister to look after the fishing industry. The thing is not consistent. As I say, the refusal to carry on with these trawlers has been, to my mind, responsible for the reduction in the amount of money allocated for fishery development in this country and that reduction can be justified. The present sea fisheries organisation with the machinery which has been set up to deal with it, has made representations to the Government and submitted its estimate and it did not require the large sum of money for its operations that was formerly required when it had these very costly trawlers. Criticism of that kind is entirely ill-informed. Home development, to my mind, has not been at all impeded by the sending home of those foreign trawlers. On the contrary, the Sea Fisheries Association have now decided to put out four trawlers commanded by Irishmen and under their own direct control. The boats are their own property and it is an attempt to develop the idea of the short trip by oil fuel trawlers. The men who will man these trawlers will be whole-time fishermen, and that is, to my mind, what we should try to develop in this country —the whole-time fisherman.
There is also another responsibility which might be placed on these trawlers. I do not say that these short-trip trawlers are the ideal way of dealing with the question of the supplying of our own fish requirements and I do not believe it can be done in that way. Eventually, I think we shall have to get into the deep sea trawling end of it, but it is much better to get along to that by having a connecting link between the inshore men and the deep sea trawlers. These short-trip trawlers will form that very necessary and useful link. The deep sea trawlers, and, very possibly, the short trip trawlers, also, can by degrees take on some of the responsibility for coast protection and they can be a very great help in combating the poaching foreign trawler and, for that reason, I should like to see many more of these short-trip trawlers put to sea. At least every boat that is now lying idle in our harbours and which is capable of being fitted out at a reasonable cost should be put to sea. I have advocated that myself time and time again. We can get plenty of men who are prepared to become whole-time fishermen and these crews would be the nucleus of a very efficient coast protection service as well as a fishery protection service.
I would strongly recommend to the Minister the desirability of providing cold storage facilities, particularly in places like the Aran Islands where quick transit is not available. It has often come to my notice that consignments of fish taken by men who are affiliated to the Sea Fisheries Association have found that their consignments were tainted on reaching Dublin or Galway, with the result that the prices which these fishermen would otherwise have got were considerably reduced. If quick transit cannot be made available—and I admit the difficulty of providing quick transit at a place like Aran—the alternative, to my mind, is cold storage, so that fish can be kept in good condition until the regular sailing of the steamer takes place. There are other places around the coast where cold storage facilities are essential to the development of the fresh fish business. There are many places from which fish is consigned which is not in very good saleable condition particularly in warm weather. I know it is costly but I would draw the Minister's attention to it. It was suggested that the Sea Fisheries Association was not popular with fishermen around the coast and I think that is true. It is not very popular. That is my experience of it. I do not know why. From my experience of the way prospective members react to the suggestion of becoming members I think that the amount of revenue which the association gets in the way of membership fees is hardly worth the trouble. As soon as a member pays his initial 5/- to become a member he expects to be provided with facilities including £300 worth of a motor boat. Of course it is provided for in the Act under which the Fisheries Association has been established, and I suppose it cannot very well be dispensed with even by the Minister. At all events it is possible that the Minister may need to have an amending Act dealing with fisheries in general, and I would recommend to him that the rules of the association should then be overhauled. That applies particularly to the provision of curraghs for lobstermen and scallop fishermen. Very often a curragh may have been destroyed or broken just before the lobster season commences. The owner becomes a member of the association but it takes a good deal of time before his case is listed. Possibly the season is over and the next season has come round before his case can be attended to. I think for small cases of that kind there should be some more speedy machinery, with regard to the lobster and scallop men particularly. On the question of scallops and shell-fish generally, I wish to draw the very serious attention of the Minister to the fact that there seems to be what I regard as an unnecessary delay in the paying of the bounty. The scallop fishery, in parts of County Galway at all events, is a very lucrative one. A great deal of money has been made on it. They have been complaining that there is great delay in the payment of the bounties, and I wish to call the Minister's attention to that question. I do not think there is anything else I wish to say on the matter.
I think that on this question of the development of the fisheries I agree with most of what Deputy O'Neill has said, except one thing, and that is the question of mackerel fishing. I think it would be most unwise to undertake large expenditure on the development of mackerel fishing. I certainly agree with the Sea Fisheries Association in their policy in that regard—that is, to try to get the fishermen on to the white fish. It would be very easy to get them on to mackerel and herring fishing, if that fishing offered any prospect of reasonable remuneration. It is much more difficult to get them on to the other fishing. At all events, there is this difference, that you have no market in Ireland for mackerel and a very limited market for herrings; we are not supplying our requirements in white fish. There again, the Government is up against the question that they are being urged to spend money on the development of fisheries, even on the white fish. The total import of white fish last year was only £200,000, and, of course, it will be readily understood that you could spend £200,000 very foolishly on fishery development. As I have pointed out, £50,000 have already been spent on it, so that the Government, while the position is not satisfactory, must at the same time be cautious and take all the circumstances into account. I myself believe, from all the speeches I have heard, that there has been a great deal of loose thinking on the subject. I am all out for deep sea fishing, because with the development of the country the requirements of fish will be greater. I suppose we will develop a better taste for fish as time goes on. I may add that in regard to deep sea fishing it should, to my way of thinking, be subsidised with money that would otherwise be spent on coast protection, and on the tackling of the poaching trawler. Our own trawlers could be very usefully employed in that way when not engaged in fishing. At all events, they could be used as an intelligence service for whatever patrol boats we might have. I strongly recommend that suggestion to the Minister.
I rise on behalf of the humble consumer. During this discussion to day we heard about Lord Nelson, Lady Hamilton, dynamite, gun-boats, high explosives, sardines and sprats, but the main subject that I should imagine would appeal to the House, as far as the fishing industry is concerned, is the consumers' point of view, and the putting of fish into our inland towns so that the ordinary people would have better opportunities and better facilities than they have to-day for obtaining fresh fish at a reasonable price. It is notorious in our inland towns that during the Lenten season and on days of abstinence the vast majority of people are unable to obtain fish. I have heard Deputy Bartley state that the herring market here is a very limited one, and that it is not one that should be concentrated on. I agree about mackerel, but not about the herrings. I can appreciate that the herring arrives at mysterious times, and departs unexpectedly; that it is quite impossible to follow the shoal or to know when its harvest can be garnered; that sometimes when it does arrive the equipment and boats and fishermen are not enough to cope with it, but somehow or other I think that we ought to give deep consideration to the distribution of fish in our inland towns. I see advertisements in the paper about the Fishery Association, giving particular attention to such things as hake, etc., but we have no advertisements about deliveries, or any attempt to get the ordinary people interested in the system of deliveries. In the main, the poor people in the country towns are anxious to obtain fresh herrings. I have seen private lorries coming across from the East coast when the herring arrives there. They go through Tullow, up through Carlow, and into Athy, through the local villages. They are eagerly sought for by the people and every single arrival of fish has been disposed of. If we intend to develop the fishing industry with any kind of an internal policy, from the point of view of assisting the fishermen on the coast to obtain a market the Irish people would want to receive a course of education in order to get them on to fish-eating on a much larger scale than at present. It is true that the majority of types of fish are either out of the range of the ordinary man's pocket or else he has not cultivated any taste for fish.
Dublin is a notoriously bad place in which to obtain fish on Mondays. Whether it is because there is not a proper means of storing fish I do not know, but if you go to an hotel on a Monday and order some fish, you will always get fish which has been kept in ice and which is not altogether fresh. Of course, that is a matter for the purveyors and the dealers. As it was mentioned by Deputy Bartley that fish had arrived from the Aran Islands tainted I can quite understand that it is a matter for the Sea Fisheries Association to see if they can help the fishermen when the fish are caught to store them properly so that they can arrive without being tainted. Nothing is more dangerous to public health than tainted fish. The point made by Deputy Bartley should open the eyes of those of us who do not live on the sea coast to the dangers associated with the fishing industry unless there is a proper means of storing the fish and getting it to the market in a fresh condition. I know of one institution in this country which gave an order to the Sea Fisheries Association for the delivery of certain classes of fish against Grimsby prices and the Association were not able to deliver them. They sent some other variety of fish because, I suppose, they could not guarantee to supply what was required in the necessary quantity. That is a matter which should be gone into and, if possible, put right.
This whole debate seems to have centred around the futility of the protection provided both for our deep sea and inshore fisheries. We have had suggestions about the use of aeroplanes and wireless. One would almost think that we were having a discussion here on munitions of war. It has been brought home to those of us who know very little about deep-sea fishing that there is something lacking in the protection provided and that the inroads made on our fishing grounds are of such a nature that our own fishermen are being robbed practically of any opportunity of earning a livelihood. I have seen, when passing along parts of the coast at night time, substantial looking boats with lights out practically up against the coast, and these boats disappear before morning.
My view is that the only way of dealing with these people is to purchase a couple of obsolete destroyers, if not from Great Britain, then from some other country. There are plenty of these vessels for sale now. We should put ex-naval men on them and let it be seen once and for all that this poaching must stop. If necessary, we should fire across these boats and make them heave to. If you are going to do this thing at all, do it properly, otherwise you are simply wasting time trying to stop it by the methods adopted up to the present or by debates here. If they are using force, and if they disregard the law and the slight protection at present afforded, let them see that this poaching will not be allowed to go on. I do not know what the international law about this matter is. There may be all sorts of reactions and difficulties and strained relations. I have, however, read a good deal about the Icelandic position. Up there there is no nonsense tolerated. If any invasion of territorial rights takes place along the Baltic coast or anywhere else up there they do not hesitate to take the most drastic action and to fire, if necessary, if the flag of the country concerned is ignored. We hear a lot here about the Irish flag and what it stands for; when, however, the flag is ignored by these poachers, we hear fine speeches, but we have very little action.
I would not have intervened at the tail-end of this debate but for the statement made by Deputy Bartley. It is very disquieting to learn that the Sea Fisheries Association has, in such a short time, lost something between £30,000 and £50,000. If we establish an association to foster Irish fisheries, and if, instead of fostering Irish fisheries, the association has spent between £30,000 and £50,000 in subsidising foreign trawlers, it looks a strange way of fostering Irish fisheries. I hope I understood Deputy Bartley rightly when he said that the services of these trawlers have been dispensed with and that in future Irish boats manned by Irishmen will be used. Opposition speakers taunt us with our attitude when in opposition. We are not ashamed of the attitude we adopted when in opposition. We criticised the Department of Fisheries then, and we are prepared to criticise it now. Our criticism when in opposition was of a constructive nature. We made the very suggestions then that I have heard from the opposite side throughout this debate. The suggestions made by Deputy Minch were made by us five or six years ago. One lives and learns, I suppose. Many of the suggestions that were made at that time for the protection of our sea fisheries and for the prevention of poaching by foreign trawlers we found were ineffective.
The suggestion made by Deputy Bartley that the new boats which are being used by the Sea Fisheries Association could be employed for the purpose of protection is rather a good one, but these boats should be specially equipped for that service. The suggestion of Deputy Minch that it would be advisable to fire shots through some of these trawlers sometimes should be taken very cautiously. Very serious international complications might arise if one of our boats was to put a shot through any foreign trawler. Perhaps, however, if some international complication did arise it might have a good effect. As a result of some trouble we had off the Wexford coast some time ago, French gunboats had to come across to prevent French pirates from poaching off that coast. Perhaps if some drastic action were taken against the pirates of other nations their gunboats might come across to see that their nationals did not insist on poaching in our waters.
This question of protection has been discussed here for the past ten years, I suppose. The same suggestions have come across from the opposite side of the House as from this side of the House. Nothing practical has been done. We all, for the past few years, made fun of the "Muirchu"; she is still perambulating around the coast and trying to do her best. Other suggestions have been made now, and I would ask that the Department should take them seriously. I would urge that the "Muirchu" be scrapped or else that she should be given some assistance by putting two or three other boats of the same class around the coast with her. Then there would be some chance of giving the fisheries protection. It is no good to depend on the one boat to cover the whole coast.
In regard to the loss of this money by the Sea Fisheries Association, I would say that the matter is very serious. It would be well that the House should know what loss is now being sustained by the Sea Fisheries Association. I take it that since the foreign trawlers were dispensed with the loss is not so great. Is the State getting in other ways compensation out of this loss? That is the question for the Department to consider.
I notice that Deputy Minch says that fish cannot be obtained in the inland towns of the country. I understood that the main object of the Sea Fisheries Association was to secure that fish would be procurable and on sale around the inland towns; that arrangements would be made for a regular consignment of fish to be sent to them. Apparently that was not done. I know that it is almost impossible to get a regular supply of fish in the inland towns around the country. It is possible, of course, that you will have a catch of fish at one port one day, but that would not be continuous. You may have a catch, for instance, in Kinsale one day and nothing the following days; then you may have a catch another day in Arklow or some other port. I think if it were possible to do what Deputy Minch has suggested, to set up cold storage somewhere where the fish could be piled up, it would be, perhaps, a more effective way of dealing with the matter.
I should like to see a development in this country of deep sea fisheries. It is a matter of business. If there is sufficient demand for fish in the country some business person, one would imagine, would come along and supply the fish. But apparently there is not. If an English or Dutch firm trading to our ports were to-morrow to go into this business of supplying the fish for the inland towns, it could be done. Apparently it does not pay them to do it. Deep sea trawling is a very big business. It is a thing that requires very large capital. Some of the firms engaged in the business have tremendous capital behind them. They have a large fleet of trawlers, and in many cases they have their own shops. It is only on lines like those that the business could be developed. A sum of £50,000 has been paid for a trawler by one of these firms.
The criticism of the Department on this Vote, in the main, has been good, but it is not one bit different from the criticism made during the past ten years. I hope, however, that some effort will be made now to meet the points raised. As to the matter of the inland fisheries, I am glad to say that the position is good. Our rivers are full of fish. They are being well preserved. I made the suggestion here years ago that an effort should be made to prevent the spawning fish getting too far up in these rivers. Possibly it could be arranged that the spawning fish would be kept from going too far towards the upper reaches. In that case there would be a better chance for the spawning fish. I am afraid there is still a good deal of damage being done by poachers in the upper reaches of the rivers. It is impossible for the Gárda or the river bailiffs to stop it entirely.
If the hatcheries were more fully developed it would compensate for the loss in the natural spawning. From the tourist point of view trout fisheries could be made very interesting and profitable, and these ought to be properly developed. With reference to the point made about the salmontrout, I must say that I would not like to ask a man who is fishing for salmontrout to get a special licence. The man who accidentally catches a salmontrout——
"Accidentally" is a very good word there.
Every angler knows that there is a fly called the white trout fly, but a man catching a white trout, unless he is found to be using white trout tackle, should not be expected to have a special licence. It would be unfair to ask a man fishing for white trout to pay a licence if, by accident, he should happen to catch a brown trout. Quite a number of people are interested in this fishing. It would be rather going too far to expect that a man should throw back the trout into the water if, by accident, he caught a trout which he was not licensed to catch. I would be against penalising a man for an accidental catch like that.
The Minister has heard so much about fish for the last two days that I think he will dread the advent of Friday, and in the remarks I have to make I do not propose to pile on the agony. I will only deal with two concrete instances as regards the River Slaney, in the Country Wexford, portion of the country with which the Minister is well acquainted. I would add my quota to what has been already said about white trout fishing. I would suggest a special licence of 5/- for white trout fishing. There are a number of white trout fishermen in Country Wexford. This is not the same sort of industry as in the West of Ireland. There are ordinary fishermen there who fished for white trout in the past and, to a certain extent, the catching of a white trout was ignored by the powers that be. I suggest that if a small licence fee of 5/- were imposed, it would cover the matter. A large number of fishermen fish in the Slaney and in the tributaries flowing thereto.
I would like the Minister to look into the question of ante-dating the net fishing season in the Slaney. The fishing season commences there on the 1st April. If it were ante-dated a fortnight or even a month it would cause no hardship, and it would be a great boon to these people. It would not do any hardship to the rod fishermen, nor would it be impossible from any point of view, climatic or piscatorial. It would be perfectly possible and would result in having a large body of men, a couple of hundred with their families, benefited. I would ask the Minister to agree to that suggestion.
I think I heard Deputy McMenamin echoing a suggestion made by another Deputy, Deputy Kissane, with reference to armed launches for the protection of the coast at night, and Deputy McMenamin asked what protection would armed launches give. He pointed out that in a howling gale at 70 or 80 miles an hour a motor launch could not give any protection. I think a howling gale of 70 or 80 miles an hour would be ample protection itself. I merely throw out that suggestion for what it is worth. As regards the foreign trawlers around the coast, the menace is as bad in Wexford as anywhere else, even though we are not quite as voluble as are our kinsfolk on the South and West. I hope we will get the protection we ask for.
I would press the question of ante-dating the season for starting the fishing by a fortnight or a month. That could be done by an insertion in the coming legislation. A large number of fishermen in the Slaney and its tributaries would be facilitated. I also suggest that these men would be helped by allowing them to fish for white trout on the production of a 5/- licence. As the subject is a very slippery one, I do not intend to continue.
There has been such a variety of questions raised on this Vote that perhaps the best way I can deal with the matter is to reply to the points raised by various speakers. Deputy Fionán Lynch referred to the very big reduction in the grants-in-aid which we gave to the Sea Fisheries Association for general development. He said they got £53,000 in 1932-33, and that amount had been reduced to £20,000 in 1933-34 and to £15,000 in 1934-35. That reduction must not altogether be interpreted as Deputy Lynch interpreted it. He put it as if the present Government were inclined to neglect the development of the fisheries. As a matter of fact, the Estimate which was prepared by Deputy Lynch for 1932-33, when he was Minister, was £20,000, but the losses on those trawlers were so enormous that a Supplementary Estimate had to be brought in for an extra £33,000. Even Deputy Lynch, when he was Minister, did not contemplate a larger expenditure than £20,000.
Is it a fact that they lost £33,000 in one year?
I do not know whether you would call it a loss or not, but at any rate they spent £53,000. An important point is that these trawlers were foreign trawlers; they were chartered and they were not employing all Irishmen. In fact, a minority of those employed were Irishmen, and we were really relieving unemployment in another country at a very big cost to ourselves. I think the Sea Fisheries Association were quite right in dropping this experiment with foreign trawlers, and turning to some other method of developing the fisheries. The next point Deputy Lynch raised was that we had not done anything to develop the fisheries as we promised during the 1933 election. He quoted a speech of the President in Skibbereen showing that we had made certain promises. I think a very big advance was made last year in the marketing of the in-shore fish.
I believe the Sea Fisheries Association is going on the right lines now. They went altogether wrong in the beginning. They went out on a very big scheme, chartering foreign trawlers before they had the organisation prepared to run the trawlers or to deal with the sale of fish. They are now building up in-shore fisheries. They organised a certain number of the in-shore fishermen during 1933, and the fisheries which were regulated by the association realised £12,000 on sales. Their losses during the first year—and naturally there would be a loss during the first year of organisation, where there would be initial expense—was only £1,258, which is very creditable when compared with the first year's loss on the foreign trawler experiment. This in-shore marketing has been taken up in 12 centres, notably in Dingle and other places, at very little cost to the taxpayer.
Deputy Lynch raised another question with regard to boat-yards and boat repairing. He drew attention to the fact that it had appeared in the Estimates for many years, but now it did not appear. That service has been taken over by the Sea Fisheries Association and is run as a commercial undertaking. It was taken over voluntarily by them without any pressure from the Fisheries Department. They were very anxious to take over the boat-yard and boat building and they intend to make it pay without subsidy. Deputy Lynch asked for a report of the operations of the Sea Fisheries Association. Of course, the chairman reports each year, just the same as the chairman of any company. That report is sent out to all members, just as in the case of a company. It is submitted at the annual meeting and the chairman has to answer the usual questions that a company chairman has to answer. Press representatives are present, and any information that is necessary can be got. We are not bound, so far as I know, to lay that report on the Table of the House. It is not secret and the report can be got quite easily from any member.
But, after all, there is public money voted from this House in support of the Sea Fisheries Association, and does the Minister not think it would be only right that a document of that kind should be put at the disposal of Deputies in the Library and not let them chance what might appear in the papers? The papers do not have space to give a full report and there might be matters that Deputies would want information about that might be omitted.
I do not know what my legal powers are in the matter. I suggest that the Deputy would know something more about that than I do, as he was Minister at the time of the inauguration of the association.
I do not think there is any obligation on you to lay it on the Table.
I will look up that matter. The association, in pursuance of a policy outlined by my predecessor, Deputy O'Grady, are converting four drifters into oil-driven short-drift trawlers, and they are also chartering a vessel from an Irish owner. They hope to train men in the business of trawling on these short trips. If things go well they may be able to go further afield and take over bigger trawlers and go after certain classes of fish that we cannot get in our own waters. In the short-drift trawlers young men are learning the business and we are hoping to have only Irishmen employed. The vans are still working in places such as Athlone, Tralee and Thurles. As a result of the pioneer work in Tralee, a retail shop has been started, and is doing quite well. I think it can be truly said that in some of the districts, particularly Athlone and Thurles, the consumption of fish is on the increase. There again it is rather a costly thing on the association in some cases to get these vans going. In some places there were losses in trying to induce people to eat fish. It is not so easy for the association to stand heavy losses in this way. They may gradually be able to get fish introduced into most of the towns as time goes on.
With regard to protection, Deputy Lynch was very apprehensive lest something might occur under the regulations we have issued. The Deputy was also rather inclined to attack us for not protecting the fisheries. He cannot argue both ways. He must give us a chance to put these regulations into effect, to use the powers we have, and if we instruct the commander of our protective boat to fire over a poaching vessel, and if that warning is not sufficient and he is defied, then he is instructed to fire into the boat. That may be necessary. Deputy Minch will agree, I think, that if a foreign trawler ignores a shot fired over her, and tries to get away, and does not take any notice of the "Muirchu," then the only thing for the "Muirchu" is to fire into her. The reason these regulations were issued was in order that trawlers, fishing on the coast, after they had got fair warning, and had chosen to ignore that warning, might expect to have a shot fired into them. They would have a fair warning that the "Muirchu" was about to fire into them. I remember, in 1915, talking to a man in the City of Waterford, and he said: "These Volunteers will be going on until they shoot somebody." If the "Muirchu" goes on, she may go on, till she shoots into somebody. If these trawlers are given fair warning and take no notice of it, then she will have to fire into them. I do not believe there is any great danger in having what the Deputy referred to as an inexperienced officer. That officer has been acting as first officer for a long time, and while he was obeying orders, in a certain sense, he was also commanding men to obey. The first officer himself takes command sometime or another, and I think we may rely sufficiently upon his ability to act quite properly.
Deputy Lynch also raised the question of granting special licences for sea-trout fishing. The matter was raised by other speakers as well. I am not in a position to give any view upon it just now. I am glad to say that, because I know that certain evidence has been placed before the Inland Fisheries Commission upon this question, and I hope they will give a ruling. They will be in a position to weigh the evidence. Evidence has been given before them in favour of Deputy Lynch's suggestion; I do not know whether they got any evidence against it, but they will make a report, and as their report will be followed by legislation, that matter can then be dealt with. Another question that will be covered in the same way was the question raised by Deputy Kehoe about extending the season on the Slaney. Possibly there would be some demand from other Deputies on that point if it had struck them. This question would also be investigated by the Inland Fisheries Commission, and I hope they will report upon the proper time for opening and closing the season.
Another point, raised by Deputy J. P. Kelly, was the question of allowing net-men in fresh water. That too will be reported on by the Inland Fisheries Commission. Deputy Lynch said that we should have two or three protection boats as the "Muirchu" was not sufficient. A good many Deputies expressed the opinion that the "Muirchu" herself was of no use. Others said that if we had two or three boats of the same type it would be all right. I agree with the latter views. I say the "Muirchu" is all right but, of course, it is absolutely impossible for her to be at Donegal and Cork at the same time. I expressed the opinion, when introducing the Sea Fisheries Protection Bill, that if any person, such as a Civic Guard or other authorised person, took the number, or the mark, of a trawler inside the territorial waters that boat could be arrested even six months later by the "Muirchu" when she came round, and that would obviate the need of having a protection boat within call on every occasion. If the number of a trawler was taken, and passed on, then when the "Muirchu" came up with that trawler she could arrest her for the offence that was committed some months previously. I expressed the opinion that we should give that a trial when the Act came into force and as the Act is only coming into force now that suggestion should be given a trial.
Did she ever fire a shot?
She fired a shot a week ago.
What is the calibre of her gun?
I do not think that is a fair question to ask in case of the possibility of a war or anything like that. Deputy Lynch also said that he often had complaints from boards of conservators to the effect that the Minister for Fisheries was very much inclined to reduce penalties, but that these complaints had not been coming for some time. I do not think I have, in any way, altered the practice of those who preceded me. As Deputy Lynch knows, the Minister for Justice has power to remit, or partly remit, fines. The Minister for Justice has never, so far as I know, exercised that prerogative except after consultation with the Minister for Fisheries, and the Minister for Fisheries never acts on his own at all: he acts on a report from the District Justice or the Civic Guards, or both. Very often the District Justice says he had to inflict a certain fine under the law but that he thought it unnecessarily severe. In such cases, the Civic Guards agree, perhaps they will say the particular man is not in the habit of poaching and will agree with the District Justice that the fine is severe. It is my practice in that case to act on the District Justice's recommendation. On the other hand, in a case where there is a conflict between the District Justice and the Civic Guards, I often agree with the Civic Guards because they know the history of the person and whether he is an inveterate poacher; the District Justice may be lenient where he does not know all the circumstances. But of course the District Justice has to inflict the fine under the law and that is why he is inclined, very often, to recommend a revision of the fine.
There used to be a third source of information, namely the Board of Conservators.
Yes. The Board of Conservators do report but they almost invariably stand out for the fine inflicted though I do not invariably hold with them. Deputy Corry talked about seaplanes for the protection of our fisheries and suggested that the Department should wake up and look into this matter. I can assure the Deputy we were awake to this matter before he ever thought of it. That matter was considered long ago. It is certainly not an ideal way to protect fisheries. Something might be said for it by way of scouting, but it is certainly not an ideal remedy.
Deputy Corry said our imports and exports remained at the same figure. It is rather peculiar that we should be exporting and, at the same time, importing fish. The fact of course is that our fishermen catch an excess of certain fish and less than we require in other cases. Our fishermen do not catch sufficient plaice or sole and we have to import. On the other hand, they catch more than we require of salmon and lobster, herring, and mackerel. That explains why we export and at the same time import fish. They are different varieties of fish. The fact that the imports and the exports are equal in value is of course accidental.
Several Deputies mentioned that sufficient slips and piers were not provided. When any case is put up to the Fishery Department that proves to be a deserving one, where the provision of such accommodation would improve fishing, it has been done. Many of these things should really be done by county councils. These bodies should take the initiative. I suggest to Deputy Corry that we have no responsibility for Cork County Council. There are many places where the county councils, concerned with relief grants, might be able to deal with these matters. Where it is a case to be dealt with by the Department it will be considered. I think Deputy O'Neill was wrong when he said Spanish trawlers came near our coast. They go in for "pair" fishing more or less on the high seas. I inquired into the matter on a previous occasion when it was reported that Spanish trawlers were coming close to the coast and I was told that they only came in for provisions and did not fish near the coast. The Deputy may be right in saying that, in some cases, they come in, but generally these trawlers do not fish near the coast. The difference between a sardine and a sprat has not been decided. I do not know if the inland fisheries people will decide it or not. Deputy O'Neill also spoke of salt mackerel going to America. I think the tariff the Americans put on has nothing to do with the question. American consumers have changed their taste, as has happened in many countries. They have changed from salt fish to fillet which they can get as easily as we can get it. They can get mackerel much cheaper than we can give it. They get it from Canada and, as far as I know, Canada has to pay the same tax as we have to pay, but we are not able to get it in at the same price. I do not think that an export bounty would be of much use to try to capture the American market for mackerel. Deputy O'Neill also referred to the question of providing larger boats for fishermen. It might be a mistake to advocate indiscriminately the provision of larger boats for fishermen, because some fishermen have applied for leniency in the collection of old loans which were issued to secure larger boats. That proves that the fishermen could not make the large boats pay. If they could they would have made some attempt to repay these loans.
The Deputy spoke of herring fishing. Just like mackerel fishing, herring fishing has been carried on at a loss generally for the past few years. The Scottish company operating off our coast had, I believe, rather heavy losses last year. Of course that is a proprietary company and is in no way financed by the Government.
Was it due to a bad harvest or bad prices?
I think it was due to bad prices. I would not like to have to agree with one point made by Deputy Burke. Many Deputies expressed the same opinion, that the man who goes out to spear a salmon by illegal methods is not harming the remaining fish, and should not be regarded as having committed an offence. I think we will have to say that that is wrong, is illegal, and will have to be dealt with. No doubt it does not do the same harm as the person referred to by Deputy Kissane, who goes out with dynamite and blows up a river. It is a different matter. Deputy Kissane spoke of the deposits that have to be made for boats supplied by the Sea Fisheries Association being too high. I have inquired about that. We are giving to the Sea Fisheries Association the best terms that any country has given to fishermen in the way of deposits. Deputies will agree that when lending money for any purpose some deposit is necessary to show earnestness and good faith on the part of the borrower. It is quite true that a person with a deposit may not know as much about fishing as a person who had not the money to make a deposit. The same argument could be used about two men going to buy a farm. One man might be able to put down one-third of the money, and to get the rest from the bank, while the man who might be the better farmer might not be in that position. It is a general rule that where loans are given by the Government a deposit is necessary. In these cases the deposit is more favourable than that required in any other country. We can hardly be expected to make the position easier. Deputy Kissane said that the rivers were not properly protected. I have not heard any complaint of that kind for some time. As a matter of fact, most Deputies stated that our rivers have been vastly improved during the last eight or ten years. One Deputy said that this was the best year he remembered for river fishing, as regards the supply of fish. I think Deputy Kissane cannot be altogether correct. The majority must be right, that our rivers are being well protected and that fishing has improved.
Deputy Murphy made a very good start when he stated that there was plenty of destructive criticism but very little constructive criticism. I suppose that is a fault in all debates, that it is very difficult to get constructive criticism but very easy to get destructive criticism. The Deputy asked what proposals we had for developing our fisheries. That was a reasonable but a rather difficult question to answer. We want to protect our fisheries for our own fishermen. We provided the fishermen with protection when we put a gun on board the "Muirchu." We will have to get a few more boats, if the "Muirchu" is not sufficient for that purpose. That is, as far as protection goes. In the next place, we must enable our fishermen to catch fish. The Sea Fisheries Association is there to develop the fisheries, to provide boats and gear, and to do marketing as far as that is possible. It is there to create and develop markets in inland towns by means of vans and retail shops, and by increasing the potential consumption of fish, as far as possible. That is being attended to. The third point was attended to, to a certain extent, in this year's Budget, by protecting the market for our own fishermen. One of the things that interfered perhaps very much with our fishermen was the sale of imported fillets. We have put a rather high tariff on fillets. It is doubtful if they will come in any more with that tariff, so that our fresh fish will get a more ready sale here in future.
We have to ensure—which is a more difficult thing—a regular supply of the fish required. We are not doing that at present. At the present time we are not ensuring a supply of the fish that is necessary or the fish the people want. What we really should do if we can do it, is to give the people the fish they want rather than compel them to change over to the fish we want them to take. I have already said that there is a big demand for plaice and sole, which we are not supplying. We shall have to go further out in the high seas to get those fish, but we shall not be in a position to do that for some time. We shall have first to develop our inshore fisheries. In the meantime we have to import whatever is required in the way of plaice and sole —to import them as whole fresh fish rather than as fillets.
Deputy Murphy further said that he thought the Sea Fisheries Association is not very popular with the fishermen. There may be a certain prejudice against an organisation like that. There generally is against any sort of organisation, but the membership of the association is increasing, and where you have an increasing membership it is a sign that on the whole the association is maintaining its reputation and its popularity. Deputy McMenamin did not contribute very much except to say that men of vision and courage, meaning, I presume, the British Government and British officials, put the Gaeltacht and fisheries together and that we had now come along and divorced them. The rest of the Deputy's speech was, more or less, what I would call insincere nonsense. It was both nonsensical and insincere. Deputy Kelly spoke of a cleansing tank for mussels, but he must remember that that is one of the most difficult questions we have to deal with technically. There is no use in having this tank unless it is going to be constructed in such a way as to be effective. It appears, from what I can learn, that that is a difficult task. There is not, I believe, any unnecessary delay in dealing with this matter. The whole difficulty is to construct a tank that will meet with the requirements of the different public health authorities. As soon as we can get going on the matter there will be no time lost, I can assure the Deputy.
Is there not an existing model across the water, at Conway?
Perhaps there is.
The intention was to have a tank on the lines of the Conway purification plant.
Deputy Anthony put a rather sensible question. He asked if it pays the French and the Spaniards to trawl along the Irish coasts why should it not pay an Irish company to engage in the same business? Evidently the French and the Spaniards are making it a paying proposition. I suppose, in the first place, we have not men of sufficient enterprise here to go into competition with them. I should like to say to the Deputy that it would be no great use to this country if they did, because they could not compete very well, I believe, against those people, in the sort of business they are carrying on, unless they were to go to the British markets. I do not know if there is any continental market that would require this fish. They would probably go to the British market, and in order to compete against these other trawlers, they would have to go to a British port for coal. They would call into these ports with their fish and to get coal. If most of the crew were married men, the only chance they would have to get off to see their families would be when they reached the other side, so that they would have to bring their families over there, and really they would be of no use to this country at all. That type of fishing is not much use to us. If we can develop our inshore fishing, there is one big advantage in oil engines as against the coal or steam engines. The boats will not have to go to the port of another country to get fuel. They can get oil as cheaply here as they would on the other side.
Where will they get their market?
That would be for our own market. In regard to the State hatcheries referred to by Deputy Anthony, that is another matter that will be dealt with very fully, I expect, by the Inland Fisheries Commission. It is one of the matters they would naturally deal with, as a commission inquiring into inland fisheries.
How many delivery vans are operating and trying to cater for the wants of the whole country? This is a very important matter. This scheme has no chance of success unless there is an effective delivery service.
There are three operating at present. We cannot afford to lose a lot on these vans.
Has the Minister anything to say in regard to another matter which I touched upon, namely, whether he intends to introduce legislation to provide for a smaller fee for a salmon licence, or, in the alternative, to introduce a short amending Bill, to delete from the 1925 Act the clause which makes it a penal offence to catch a salmon trout?
I said in the earlier part of my speech that that is a matter that will be reported on by the Fishery Commission.
I have to apologise to the Minister. I was not here when he started. I rushed in when I heard he was speaking.
If I understood the Minister aright, I gathered from him when he was replying to some points which Deputy Kehoe had made with regard to the extension of seasons, that he is going to act on the recommendation of the commission in that respect. Is that recommendation of the commission, now sitting on the question of inland fisheries, going to supersede the present machinery for dealing with the question of opening seasons earlier or later? You have the present machinery, under which a public inquiry is held in any given case with regard to any given river. Both sides are heard at that inquiry, a report is made to the Minister, and the Minister makes his decision on that report. Surely that machinery, which is extremely efficient for the purpose, is not going to be superseded by some roving temporary Commission.
Of course, I do not know what the commission may report, and unless there was very good evidence in favour of it, I take it they will not be inclined to change the machinery. Perhaps there will always be a public inquiry held whatever machinery they may suggest.